Characterizing the Role of the Previously Undescribed Protein Caskin2 in Vascular Biology
Maintenance of vascular homeostasis is an active process that is dependent on continuous signaling by the quiescent endothelial cells (ECs) that line mature vessels. Defects in vascular homeostasis contribute to numerous disorders of significant clinical impact including hypertension and atherosclerosis. The signaling pathways that are active in quiescent ECs are distinct from those that regulate angiogenesis but are comparatively poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that the previously uncharacterized scaffolding protein Caskin2 is a novel regulator of EC quiescence and that loss of Caskin2 in mice results in elevated blood pressure at baseline. Caskin2 is highly expressed in ECs from various vascular beds both in vitro and in vivo. When adenovirally expressed in vitro, Caskin2 inhibits EC proliferation and migration but promotes survival during hypoxia and nutrient deprivation. Likewise, loss of Caskin2 in vivo promotes increased vascular branching and permeability in mouse and zebrafish models. Caskin2 knockout mice are born in normal Mendelian ratios and appear grossly normal during early adulthood. However, they have consistently elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure at baseline and significant context-dependent abnormalities in systemic metabolism (e.g., body weight, fat deposition, and glucose homeostasis). Although the precise molecular mechanisms of these effects remain unclear, we have shown that Caskin2 interacts with several proteins known to have important roles in endothelial biology and cardiovascular disease including the serine/threonine phosphatase PP1, the endothelial receptor Tie1, and eNOS, which is a critical regulator of vascular homeostasis. Ongoing work seeks to further characterize the functions of Caskin2 and its mechanisms of action with a focus on how Caskin2-mediated regulation of endothelial phenotype relates to its systemic effects on cardiovascular and metabolic function.
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